Thursday, July 2, 2009

Audacia Ray on the Sanford Scandal

I recently met the awesome Audacia Ray at the Sex 2.0 conference held in the DC area in May. Audacia Ray is a sexual rights activist and is the author of Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads, and Cashing In On Internet Sexploration (Seal Press, 2007). Dacia is also the Program Officer for Online Communications and Campaigns at the International Women’s Health Coalition and an adjunct professor of Human Sexuality at Rutgers University.

Dacia is a guest today on The Takeaway, a new national morning news radio program co-produced by PRI (Public Radio International) and WNYC Radio in collaboration with the BBC World Service, The New York Times and WGBH Boston.

Today's program is entitled "Love, Sex and Governor Sanford", in which Dacia and another guest make some very excellent points. Give it a listen, it's only 7 minutes long.

As a polyamory advocate I am intrigued by the part of the Sanford story that makes clear (if he is being truthful) that he first developed an emotionally intimate friendship with Maria Belen Chapur. This is something married men and women are often forbidden from doing in western culture. A few years ago a therapist wrote an article published in the Baltimore Sun that was emphatic that opposite sex friendships aren't OK for married people. At the time I was furious about it and vehemently disagreed - but context does matter, as does the importance of clear, direct communication between spouses about specific boundaries around behavior with others. Polyamorists must develop this ability in order to make their relationships work. Monogamy encourages avoidance of such discussions, because people marry thinking that everyone already knows the rules.

Once Sanford became emotionally bonded with Ms. Chapur, his human nature made it very, very difficult (though far from impossible) to avoid expressing those feelings sexually - it's the way we are wired as humans. Does that mean he should never have become friends with her? I guess I'll have to leave that decision up to the individuals who find themselves in that situation to decide, because it is their marriage, not mine, that is at stake.


Audacia Ray said...

This article about the Sanfords is really interesting and unfortunately something I didn't have time to discuss:

"South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford sat in her oceanfront living room Friday, recalling how her husband repeatedly asked permission to visit his lover in the months after she discovered his affair.

"I said absolutely not. It's one thing to forgive adultery; it's another thing to condone it," Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press during a 20-minute interview... "

So interesting. Sounds like an attempt at negotiating poly to me - granted it came a bit late, after he'd been having an affair instead of before, so she's justified in feeling violated. But still, very very interesting.

Anita Wagner said...

Looks great, I'll check it out. I imagine negotiating is exactly what he was trying to do, but via his wife he is being hoisted on his own petard, as the saying goes. And maybe such people figure they don't have much to lose by that point and might as well go for it and see what happens.

I moderate a very active poly/mono online group, and it's very clear that Gov. Sanford has a lot of company when it comes to how common it is for a monogamously married person to fall in love with someone else and then dearly wish to keep both the spouse and lover because they love them both. This is the point at which poly people ask, "Why must they choose, really? Does it HAVE to be this way?" But trust has to be there before it can work, and these situations are always launched very poorly when they come up after the poly desirous spouse has gotten involved with someone else.

And, of course, the Sandford situation is not exactly common in terms of context with the way they live their lives. His wife is clearly a staunch believer in monogamy, and the tone of her words in her press release makes it clear who the self-righteous one is in the family.